Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Taste of India

One of our favorite ethnic cuisines is Indian. There are no Indian restaurants that I'm aware of in this part of PA, so we are left to fend for ourselves when we have cravings. As much as I'd love to have easy access to great takeout, I realize that this is a great opportunity for me to learn to cook it at home. I have no idea how authentic most of what we have tried is, given that in most ethnic restaurants, the foods are somewhat bastardized to better suit American tastes. Bastardized or not, I love it.

The first dish I made tonight is not exactly an authentic Indian dish - but it wasn't Americanized, it was a dish created to suit the British penchant for gravy. The story goes that a chef created Chicken Tikka Masala when the gentleman he was cooking for wanted gravy to go with his Chicken Tikka, a dry Indian chicken dish. Today, it is one of the most popular "Indian" dishes in the world. Whether it is native to India or not, it is one of our personal favorites. Recipes for the masala, the sauce part of the dish, vary greatly, but I suspect that one of the reasons I love it is that the versions I've tasted most definitely had cream as part of the ingredient list. Some might argue that it could be ghee or yogurt, but the velvety, rich flavor that I associate with this dish is most likely due to cream, an ingredient that I found listed for most recipe versions I was able to locate online.

I took my smattering of recipes gathered on the internet and spliced them together to fit what I thought would work well and taste most like what I craved. My job was greatly simplified in that we used some leftover Chicken Tikka from a restaurant we went to in DE over the weekend. I tried to keep this dish pretty simple to make and keep to ingredients that are fairly easy to find, not using too many specialty ingredients such as ghee, that can be expensive or hard to find. One exception - the cardamom pods - they were fairly inexpensive (as were the large bags of turmeric and garam masala) and I couldn't resist.

The results for the sauce were delicious. I don't know that I would change much, if anything. It's very satisfying to have a dish meet expectations on the first try! Although I was unsure of the correct balance of the different spices, I was pretty sure I could get the tomato and cream part right - it's really not at all unlike making a vodka sauce. I'd bet that most restaurant versions use a bit more cream than I did, but I tried not to go overboard with the cream, but still adding enough to give it that rich taste I love so much.

I served the Chicken Tikka Masala with roasted cauliflower. I knew I wanted to roast the cauliflower, but didn't know how I wanted to season it. Then I remembered a delicious recipe for Indian-spiced potatoes that I made a long time ago. I dug that out, tossed the cauliflower in the oil and spices, roasted it in the oven and again, the results were wonderful. DS, who immediately said "Yuk, cauliflower", gobbled up every bite on his plate and DH went back for seconds, exclaiming that he might like the cauliflower dish even better than the Masala. Can't get too much more successful than that!

The potato dish was named Peela Aloo, aloo being the Indian word for potato. So, I have named the cauliflower dish Peela Gobi, which, if I've looked it up correctly, should mean Yellow Cauliflower. (If I am incorrect, I hope that someone who knows better will speak up and correct me!) Turmeric, also known as yellow ginger or Indian ginger, is what gives everything such an incredible bright yellow burst of color, including curries.

In making these dishes, I have now stocked up on copious quantities of turmeric and garam masala, and cardamom pods, I will definitely be looking for plenty of Indian recipes - not only to help use these lovely spices, but because I always intend to do more Indian cooking and now that I have easy access to most ingredients I would need, and no access to good Indian food, no more excuses.

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  1. Yum Alysha, I'm impressed!
    I love Indian food and one of my biggest regrets about moving was not having time to take cooking lessons from an Indian friend! I ate at her house several times and was blown away by how good it was. I even tried goat curry-yum!

    I don't generally like cauliflower. I wonder if I would like this recipe?

  2. Hi Jennifer.

    If you like Indian flavors and want to give cauliflower another try, this would be the recipe! My family is not big on cauliflower (but I really like it) and they LOVED it. I really liked the ease of roasting it too.

    But, everyone has things they dislike that no amount or type of flavoring can make taste any better. ;) So far, I'm like that with beets. Taste like dirt to me.

  3. Anonymous4:15 PM

    Mmmm. Indian food. Something is definitely in the air. I just made Butter Chicken last week, and now I'm craving some good Tikka Masala. :-)

    I have a great recipe for Masala shrimp, may have to break that one out soon too.

  4. Erika - Indian food is well-suited for cooler weather - like a spicy chili.

    Shrimp Masala - sounds yummy.